It is widely reported that bee populations are in trouble. These beautiful humble little creatures are tormented by pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and more. Given that we’ll struggle to produce food without these valuable pollinators it’s important to make sure that our gardens have plenty of bee-friendly plants that support and nourish bees.
Worker bees live for about six weeks and need food all year round. A hive will typically produce fewer worker bees in the winter, however, they will remain active during this time and replace numbers throughout the summer when they are most active. So having bee friendly plants that flower in different seasons are vital for the survival of these fascinating insects.
Five important things we can do at home to help bee numbers are:
- Support campaigns to ban the seven most dangerous pesticides, and don’t use any pesticides in the garden, especially not on flowering plants. Some of the pesticides on the list linked above are already banned in Europe, but helping to create awareness across the globe is still an important step. I’ve stopped using pesticides on my roses a few years back, even though they still get attacked I’ve seen an increase in ladybugs and other insects that prevent disease in my garden, which seem to have brought the pests under control so that it no longer cause notable damage to the plant itself. If you resist the urge to interfere, nature knows how to look after itself.
- Protect pollinator health by preserving wild habitat and adding bee-friendly plants to your garden
- Support ecological, regenerative, organic agriculture. Regenerative and ecological farming resists insect damage by avoiding large monocrops (growing the same crop every year on the same piece of land), preserving ecosystem diversity, reducing pesticide use and promoting soil health
- Avoid plants with double or multi petalled flowers
- Provide nest sites for wild bees
The Best Place to Buy Bee Friendly Plants
Before you rush off to the nearest garden centre to stock up on bee friendly plants, be mindful that many of the major garden centres across the world use pesticides on their plants which can be counter-productive in your efforts to save bees. These pesticides can last up to a year in colder climates, contaminating your garden and affecting pollinators.
Friends of the Eart has been running a campaign in the US to help stop the use of pesticides within garden centres over the last few years with great success, but there are still some that do use pesticides. You can read about the retailers who have signed up here. For those in the UK, the RHS has an updated list of Organic Nurseries on their site.
Alternatively growing from seeds could be the safest option if you are unsure as plants are often imported from abroad where regulations vary.
Bee Friendly Garden Plants for Every Season
You can find bee-friendly seed packs online that takes the guesswork and pesticides out of the process. We’d recommend buying local seed packs specific to your country as it will have the best chance for good growth.
Bee Friendly Plants for Spring (March-May)
- Crab Apple Tree
Bee Friendly Plants for Summer (June-August)
- Lavender, English Lavender is more suited for colder and wetter climates than its French counterpart
- Hardy Geranium
- Coneflower – Echinacea
Bee Friendly Plants for Autumn (September-November)
- Single-flowered Dahlias
- Japanese Anemones
- Autumn crocus
- Autumn flowering Sage